A Film With A Purpose
In an effort to finally put to rest the ongoing, controversial debate of whether certain breeds or types of dogs pose a threat to the public safety, River Fire Films began a journey to shine a spotlight on laws called breed specific legislation (BSL), which restrict or prohibit ownership of such dogs – namely pit bulls.
What originally started as a documentary about dog-fighting with a heavy focus on the victims (the dogs) after a star NFL quarterback was suspected of the crime in April 2007, transformed a year later into a film called Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent (GTPI) about breed discrimination in response to a west side Cleveland, Ohio suburb, Lakewood, proposing and passing a ban on pit bull type dogs.
Lakewood and Ohio
In 1987, Ohio State Representative, Bob Hickey, proposed a bill to modernize the state’s outdated ordinance regarding dangerous and vicious dogs, which was breed neutral. The bill was later amended by State Senator, Neal Zimmers, to single out dogs commonly known as pit bulls after a series of newspaper headline pit bull attacks across the state and around the country.
This bill was a restriction, requiring owners to comply with a laundry list of prerequisites to own the breed, which was signed into law by Governor Celeste in July of that same year. Ohio became the only state in the Union to have such legislation statewide, and local communities began mirroring the state’s revised code. Over the next couple decades, the debate continued on without much resolution in sight…not only in the United States, but around the world too, and the outlook became progressively worse for pit bull dogs.
In mid-2008, Lakewood City Council upped the ante and passed a measurement to ban pit bull dogs from within city limits, citing the state law as one of their primary reasons, since they do not get funding to enforce the restriction from the state.
GTPI takes an indepth and intimate look, leaving no stone unturned, to discover the truth about the history of the law and examine the effects it has on local communities, using Ohio as the backdrop, challenging the notion that some types of dogs are inherently dangerous at birth.
The “Rescue Version” Release
Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent was initially released as part of a fundraising strategy for dog rescue organizations, premiering the film in Cleveland, Ohio on April 28, 2013, followed by twenty-something additional screenings around the U.S. over the next year and a half, which gained the attention of national animal welfare organization, Best Friends Animal Society, in Kanab, Utah, who used the film as a tool to send to legislators faced with the issue.
An official (re)release is expected in Summer 2017, completely re-edited and fully enhanced.
A Grassroots Political Campaign Is Born
During the filmmaking process, we challenged ourselves to remain as neutral and unbiased as possible, while fact checking and gathering evidence for this film. We set a high standard of being transparent and truthful, while maintaining a level of integrity that is crucial in the documentary genre.
In conjunction with the re-release of GTPI, a grassroots campaign called “WOOFobia” was launched to complete the purpose of the film, by putting an end to breed discrimination. This political campaign, announced March 27, 2017, is being first rolled out in communities in Ohio that currently have breed discriminatory laws, as the testing ground for a model to be used in other states and potentially around the world.
Like documentaries before, the team behind GTPI and our partners are using a combination of the arts and collaborative effort to truly change the way we see and feel about these dogs and the laws that put them on an unlevel playing field.
Please join us and help take action to guarantee all dogs are treated fairly as individuals. To sign up, fill out the short form below: